Judge Calls For Repeal Of Anti-Press Laws



The view of the old ECOWAS building in Abuja

A member of the Community Court of Justice, ECOWAS, Justice Dupe Atoki, has called for a repeal of all laws that run contrary to press freedom.

Justice Atoki made the call last weekend at the forum to celebrate this year’s World Press Freedom Day.

With a theme, Press Freedom in Nigeria – Violent Extremism, Rule of Law and the Media, the two-day event was put together by Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) and the European Union’s Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) Programme with funding from the British Council.

Justice Atoki regretted that in spite of constitutional provisions for free press; government has sustained assault against journalists.

She also recalled how government has continuously flouted court orders, particularly those directing it to divulge information in line with the provisions of Freedom of Information Act.

Similarly, the judge admonished journalists to be professional in their reportage and avoid instances of fake news.

Speaking, the Head of European Union Delegation to the Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ambassador Ketil Karlsen, noted that the quality of democratic processed is linked to the state of freedom of expression. According to him, there is no democracy without a truly free press.

“Freedom of expression is a fundamental right enshrined in international law and while bearing the great responsibility to guarantee accurate news to the public, free, diverse and independent media are at the core of a pluralistic and open society.”

He regrets however that globally, there have been attempts to curb the space for free media and undermine their credibility.

“Concerning Nigeria, it is our assessment that the Nigerian press remains one of the most vibrant on the continent.”

For the National Programme Manager, Rule of Law and Anti-corruption (RoLAC) programme, Mr. Mr. Danladi Plang, noted that like any human endeavor, there is room for improvement in the relationship between the government and the media.

On the part of government, he stated that signing of Freedom of Information Bill into law by the legislature, which is part of government was one way of ensuring legal framework that allows for media freedom.

Mr. Plang therefore urged the government to enforce the law it enacted.

On the part of the media, Plang admitted that while they have played crucial roles in deepening democracy and good governance, there was need to enhance the quality of their reportage.

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki was represented by Senator Philip Aduda, and he held that if Nigeria must grow and preserve its democracy, the people must understand that a free and pluralistic media environment that guarantees access to information is non-negotiable.